There is no guide to be the perfect parent. Sure there are loads of guides, such as Parenting for Dummies, but none of these come with guarantees that if you follow all their advice, you’ll nail the whole parenting thing, which is a bit disappointing, and a waste of money quite frankly.
Having already explored the parent dynamic with 2020’s The Father, French director Florian Zeller returns to not only the same subject matter, but also the same family, with this feature deemed its prequel.
Setting up a family in New York City with his wife Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and their newborn, is Peter (Hugh Jackman). It’s not his first stab at parenting though, previously married to Kate (Laura Dern) and having a son Nicholas (Zen McGrath) who is now seventeen.
Things are not going well between Nicholas and his mother right now, so much so that he pleads to his dad if he can move in with him and his new family for a while, which Peter agrees to.
Nicholas is a troubled youth, but unlike the usual awkward transition that most teenagers go through into adulthood, his issues go far deeper than that.
Not having such a great relationship with his own father (Anthony Hopkins), Peter is keen not to make the same mistakes his father made with him. But the more time he spends with his son, he feels more of his father come out in his own parenting skills, which scares him.
Can he become the father he wants to be and protect his son from his demons?
On paper at least, it must have seemed a logical idea to follow-up his 2020 debut The Father, especially with how well it was received winning two Oscars as it did, with a prequel to that family tale.
And although Hopkins returns, in an all too brief scene, and despite a number of similarities, this is a different beast altogether.
The main issue, surprisingly, are the performances. Now Hugh Jackman is steadfastly reliable, and yet there’s something stilted about his, and the rest of the casts performances. It lacks any nuance, and often feels like a filmed version of an actual theatrical production.
The settings don’t help, making it claustrophobic being mainly set in a small New York apartment. But The Father was set in its small London flat, and that didn’t feel the same way.
There should be more depth to it, with the title referring to two sons within the film, but it's just too safe for the most part, as well as having a finale that is sadly all too predictable, as much as Zeller does his best to disguise it, you'll still see it coming a mile away.
And even though Zeller once again co-wrote the script with the reliable Christopher Hampton, the dialogue is somewhat dry and staged, with even the emotional notes lacking any real punch or range for that matter.
Considering what a tour de force The Father was, this is definitely a disappointment in comparison. There’s a chilled edge to the relationships, especially the key one between father and son, so they don’t ring as true as they should. In short, it just doesn’t feel as organic as the first film did, and it suffers terribly for it.
The Son may well be related to The Father, but the distance between them means that this offspring should have remained estranged.